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Unsurprisingly as a designer I come across a large amount of photographs. The quality of photographs I receive from clients varies dramatically, from the hi spec fashion shoot shots which are pieces of artwork in their own right, to holiday photographs taken by a budding 9 year old photographer on a less than hi spec disposable camera.

We have all been there. A batch of photos arrives for a job and they need to be edited by yesterday.

It is possible to transform a less than perfect photo into a perfect photo using photoshop. Unfortunately this can be painstaking work (normally working at 500% zoom) which takes time. Time is one of those quantities not normally available to designers. On a side note I am sure that designers will be the first people able to time travel through the process of natural selection (NASA watch this space!).

People in a photograph are perhaps the most difficult subjects to deal with. Normally the face and hair lose all sense of depth (usually due to excessive flash). There are many ways to deal with this problem, but if time is of a particular issue I have found the following solution particularly effective.

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As you can see, the colours in the photo aren’t great, and there is quite obvious shine from the flash. Let’s see what we can do with it! I am using Photoshop for this tutorial, but the same thing will apply for other graphics programs. We’ll also change the background colour, a common requirement when updating photos.

Steps to touch up the photo

Duplicate the layer by simply hovering over the background layer and right click. This will bring up a menu of options. Select duplicate layer. This will create a copy of the layer. You can rename this layer. For simplicity I have renamed this layer ‘1’.

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Select the background layer and turn off the visibility. This is the little eye icon in the layers section. With the background layer selected click on the ‘new layer’ icon. This is located next to the folder on the bottom of the layer menu.

Rename your new layer ‘Black’.

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Select the colour black in your colour picker. Select your new layer ‘Black’.

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Press your ‘alt’ button (keeping this held down) then press your ‘backspace’ button. This will automatically fill the layer with the colour selected.

Next select layer ‘1’ and your polygonal lasso tool.

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Draw around the background section (in a series of small clicks) that you wish to use as accurately as possible. Join the shape and the selection will be made.

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